Using Scenarios in Microsoft Excel
Part one of a two-part series of blogs

Scenarios are incredibly useful when performing "what-if analysis". They allow you to quickly swap a range of input values to test different possibilities without having to retype any values. Read on to find out how they work!

  1. Using Scenarios in Microsoft Excel (this blog)
  2. Viewing Scenarios in Microsoft Excel

Posted by Andrew Gould on 27 February 2012

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Using Scenarios in Microsoft Excel

When you have a sophisticated model set up in Excel you'll often want to alter the input values to test what effect it has on the outputs.  Scenarios are designed to help you quickly switch between different sets of inputs for a model without having to manually type in different values time and time again.

The Example Model

To demonstrate how scenarios work we'll use a simple mortgage calculator model, as shown below:

Mortgage model

This simple model contains four input cells (the yellow-shaded ones) and four calculated cells.


You can download a copy of the file used in this tutorial by clicking here.

A Note on Range Names

Scenarios work best when you have used range names to refer to the input cells.  If you're not sure how to use range names in Excel it might be worth reading this blog first.

Range names

The advantage of range names is that it makes models much easier to read. Here we've selected cell B2, but you can see at the top left of the screen that we've also created a range name - House_price


Range names aren't essential in order in to successfully use scenarios, but they do make the process much easier!

Creating a Scenario

Creating a scenario essentially means saving a set of input values for a worksheet.  To do this:

  1. Go to the worksheet containing your input values.
  2. From the ribbon, select: Data -> What-If Analysis -> Scenario Manager…
Scenario manager

To begin with you won't have any scenarios in the worksheet.  The next step is to add some.

  1. Click the Add… button to add a new scenario.
Scenario creator

Complete this dialog box to create a scenario. The numbered steps are explained below.

  1. Enter a name for the scenario.
  2. Choose the cells whose values might change in different versions of the scenario.  Here we've picked the four cells that we highlighted in yellow.

Each scenario can have up to 32 changing cells.

  1. You can optionally add a description - the one shown here is the default.
  2. Click OK to move on to the next dialog box and enter the values for the scenario.
Entering scenario values

Enter the values for the different cells - here you can clearly see the advantage of using range names!

  1. When you have finished entering values for the input cells you can either click Add to immediately create another scenario, or OK to go back to the Scenario Manager dialog box.

When you've finished adding scenarios you can see a list in the Scenario Manager dialog box.

List of scenarios

Here we've created six scenarios, each with a different set of input values for our model.


What's Next?

Now that you've created some styles, the next step is to view the results.  The next part of this series shows you how to do exactly that, as well as showing you how to add an extra option to your toolbar to make viewing scenarios even quicker.

  1. Using Scenarios in Microsoft Excel (this blog)
  2. Viewing Scenarios in Microsoft Excel
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